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Damaging Lake Okeechobee Water Discharges To Florida Estuaries To Be Reduced

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Water managers announced Thursday they will reduce discharges of polluted water from a rain-swollen Lake Okeechobee to delicate coastal estuaries.

But the estuaries to the east and west of the state’s largest lake face a slow recovery.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will reduce the discharges by about half to the St. Lucie Estuary and by less than half to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.

Jim Jeffords of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says drier weather makes the reductions possible, but the estuaries’ water quality will improve slowly.

“Our main thing that we really are hoping for is drier weather. That’s our main concern,” he says. “This is supposed to be our dry season. And it’s turned out to our wet season going into another wet season.”

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Lee, Martin and Saint Lucie counties as the discharges there turned the water brown, hurting businesses dependent on it.

Jeffords says if Lake Okeechobee begins rising again the discharges will resume.

Mark Perry of the Florida Oceanographic Society says the reductions will bring some relief.

“The oysters and sea grass beds have already been under fresh water conditions for 40-plus days, and that’s not good for those resources.”

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Amy Green

About Amy Green

Reporter and Producer

Amy Green covers the environment and climate change at WMFE News. She is an award-winning journalist and author whose extensive reporting on the Everglades is featured in the book MOVING WATER, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, and podcast DRAINED, available wherever you get your podcasts. Amy’s ... Read Full Bio »